Online love scam victims could become money mules

Some victims of Internet love scams lose their money to online Romeos, while others end up being recruited as money mules.

Customer service officer Rah-meswati Semass, 48, was jailed for eight months in July after she acted as a money mule for her online lover, who claimed to be a Canadian businessman based in Malaysia.

Rahmeswati had refused to listen to repeated police warnings that the monies transferred to her bank account were the proceeds of criminal conduct.

She had also used her colleagues' bank accounts to receive $20,000, claiming that she did not have her own bank account.

Last October, the police set up a task force to tackle scams involving foreign crime syndicates by freezing the local accounts of scam beneficiaries. This has led to a decline in Internet love scams for the first time in five years. In the first half of this year, there were 280 cases, a drop from 344 in the same period last year. The amount cheated in these cases also fell, from about $22 million to $12 million.

The police advise the public to be wary of strangers who befriend them online, and not to send money to people they do not know well, especially if they have not met them in person.

The public can call the anti-scam hotline on 1800-722-6688 if they receive messages or calls from someone claiming to be in trouble overseas and needing money urgently.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 04, 2018, with the headline 'Online love scam victims could become money mules'. Print Edition | Subscribe